The Economist: The party goes on
Who, 20 years ago, would have thought that the Communist Party could come to this?
WHEN the tanks departed Beijing after the crackdown of June 1989, no one with an interest in China thought the matter ended. The Chinese Communist Party had won its battle for survival, but the war seemed unwinnable. All the more so after communism collapsed in Eastern Europe later that year, followed by the Soviet Union. Even China’s lunge for breakneck growth from 1992 looked set to accelerate forces the party might not control. As the party’s ideological and moral foundations crumbled, it was no longer clear what on earth it stood for.
China-watchers’ scenarios ran from party collapse to a democratising path. As late as 1998 Bill Clinton was able to tell his Chinese host, President Jiang Zemin, that suppressing dissent put China “on the wrong side of history”. Banyan was in the audience that day, his Flying Pigeon (state-made bicycle) outside. Mr Clinton’s words seemed self-evident. But with hindsight, much of where the West said China was going was wishful thinking. ...